- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


Oct. 31

The Gadsden Times on constitution amendment votes:

We’ve repeatedly spoken our piece on Alabama’s abysmal, bloated, convoluted, 115-year-old monstrosity of a state constitution. (If you didn’t already know our stance, you do now.)

We also know how many voters react when confronted with what seems to be a ream of amendments on their ballots on Election Day.

Some zone out, unable to process the mass of vowels and consonants written in the foreign tongues of legalese and legislative speak, and ignore the amendments altogether.

Others vote “no” on everything, out of contrariness and as a protest against the ridiculousness of it all, especially having to vote on local amendments affecting counties on the other side of the state.

A few giddy types will revert to childhood games and play “eenie, meanie, miney, moe,” and mark their votes sans rhyme or reason.

The result, of course, is an awful process is made even worse, especially when there are important issues on the ballot - as will be the case be next Tuesday.

A rundown of the 14 amendments up for a vote appeared in our pages. We plan this week to discuss and offer specific recommendations on a few major ones.

As with the presidential election, we advise you to read the text (and our translation) of each amendment, consider, if you will, our case on the ones we choose to spotlight, do any other research you might desire, weigh the ramifications pro and con, and cast your votes accordingly.

Trust us, we understand the temptation to not take this part of the election seriously, especially when Clinton vs. Trump has sucked all the political oxygen not just from a metaphoric room, but from the whole blasted planet.

And we certainly wish there was a better system. In fact, we’ll go ahead and offer a strong endorsement for Amendment 3, which would, if there’s a unanimous vote of the House and Senate, allow local amendments to be decided solely by voters in the counties they affect.

That isn’t a perfect fix. Ideally, the hoop of requiring unanimous legislative consent to place local issues before local voters shouldn’t be there.

This isn’t a perfect world, there’s no appetite in Montgomery for massive constitutional reform and small changes are better than none.

Those won’t happen unless people do take this process seriously, something that doesn’t require liking it. Do some homework, and make the best of it.




Oct. 30

The TimesDaily of Florence on air service providers:

Providing reliable air service for areas like the Shoals is always a challenge because boarding numbers are critical to the success of an airline.

Fortunately, Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals is a participant in the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes airlines to provide regular service. The most recent airline to serve the area, Boutique Air, has been a success, at least with customers.

Boutique offers daily flights to Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee, providing northwest Alabama residents with connections to major airports and other airlines. That’s an important selling point for a community that looks to expand its economic prospects.

The key to retaining an airline that provides local service is boarding numbers. Like most businesses, the bottom line is numbers, in this case, the number of people who use Boutique. The airline’s boarding numbers have been good, better than most previous airlines serving the Shoals. They could, however, have better numbers.

According to airport statistics, the number of boardings to Nashville have increased in all but one month since Boutique began offering flights in February. The same is true for flights to Atlanta.

For businesses that need regular access to associates in Atlanta and Nashville - and beyond - Northwest Alabama Regional Airport and Boutique are able to make those connections. For a community of our size, that is significant and should not be undervalued.

Boutique certainly is popular with the Muscle Shoals music community, many of whom travel to Nashville regularly. Reed Watson, a touring musician and employee of Single Lock Records, said the flights are reliable and on time.

In the past, some airlines serving the Shoals have been less than reliable, which encouraged travelers to book flights out of Huntsville and elsewhere. That no longer is the case with Boutique, based on customer comments.




Nov. 1

Tuscaloosa News on funding for parks and recreation:

It is time for Northport to pay its fair share to the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority, but it isn’t time to raise taxes.

During the last fiscal year, Tuscaloosa contributed $4.26 million to PARA. The county contributed $2.9 million. Northport chipped in $125,000.

There’s a similar discrepancy in funding for the local library system. Tuscaloosa contributed $1.92 million. The county contributed $1.44 million. Northport provided just $50,000.

When asking for funding, PARA Director Gary Minor told the Tuscaloosa City Council last week that Northport is “not paying their fair share.”

We agree, and, apparently, so do some officials in Northport.

Charles Swann, who is serving as interim city administrator while Northport completes its search for someone to fill the position, said he believes the city has the funds available to increase its contributions.

“I think it is something that can be considered and I think that the council will consider that,” Swann said.

The citizens of the county and its municipalities all share in the enhanced quality of life that PARA facilities and the library bring. It makes sense that there should be an equitable sharing of the burden of providing these services. Northport residents make up about 12 percent of the county’s overall population, but its contribution to PARA makes up less than 1 percent of the organization’s funding. This needs to be corrected.

The county government and the cities of Northport and Tuscaloosa provide more than half of PARA’s operating funds. The rest comes from fees and other sources. PARA’s only source of dedicated funding is $110,000 it collects from a local beer tax.

But, during his presentation to the Tuscaloosa City Council, Minor also floated another idea. He mentioned implementing a one-cent sales tax - dedicated strictly for PARA - that would generate about $18.4 million in annual revenue. Minor pointed out that other areas of the state have implemented similar sales taxes for recreational funding.

We understand that Minor would want a permanent, more dependable funding source. He wants to give employees raises and wants to know that revenues will be stable enough to make that possible. PARA has given raises of 1 percent and 1.7 percent during the past two fiscal years, but has hopes of giving a 3 percent raise to employees this year. To do that, he needs increases in funding from the cities and county and, of course, those levels would have to hold in the future.

We disagree that the tax burden on residents should be increased. PARA is important to our community and it is doing a solid job of enhancing the quality of life for our area. But there are many other needs that must be prioritized, such as public safety and roadways. We elect public officials to help make the tough decisions on where to put our money. It is up to the voters to hold them accountable on those efforts. At this juncture, a dedicated sales tax would be an overreach.



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